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Best North Dumpling, White Bear Dumpling, Xian Famous Foods, House of Yun Ho at Flushing Mall, Nan Xiang Soup Dumplings, Sun Mary Bakery

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The original plan was to get some soup dumplings at Nan Xiang but a table for 6 was definitely not to be had at 1pm without a substantial wait. Instead, we vowed to return later that afternoon...With stomaches grumbling, we searched for other dumpling sustenance.

1. Best North Dumpling - Pork and fennel dumplings were wonderful. Fennel was a very interesting ingredient - definitely not your usual steamed dumpling. Nicely juicy and satisfying. The "aquatic food" and leek were also excellent but didn't take all that "aquatic" to my group. Too bad I didn't bring a cooler to bring some of the frozen ones home. Note that they've gotten rid of a lot of the seating. There is a 3 seat counter, and three small tables, and that is it.

2. White Bear Dumplings - wontons in hot oil. Surprisingly wonderful due to the pickled ginger and scallions scattered on top. Beautiful wontons, served piping hot, with a generous helping of hot oil. Tender, crumbly filling. Not actually that spicy. But really flavorful and more complex than your usual rendition. Thumbs up. I could probably have eaten the entire thing myself.

3. Xian Famous Foods - crowded and for good reason! We ate two plates of cold noodles (liang pi) which were nicely spicy, a sensation that slowly intensifies over time. The noodles have such a wonderful texture, and I liked balancing them out with the juicy bean sprouts, cilantro, and red onion. We also tried the "lamb face salad." Interesting, but a little odd, and there was a piece in there we tried but failed to identify. Eye? Nose? Quite spicy, and we were all starting to sweat after a few bitefuls (it was also pretty warm down there). But the savory lamb burgers, too hot to touch at first, stole the show, with the flavorful cumin lingering on the tongue. The friendly proprietor proudly told us Anthony Bourdain had been in a few weeks ago!

4. Then we were off to the Flushing Mall for some Taiwanese eats at House of Yun Ho. Folks around us seemed to be getting a lot of beef noodle soup and hot soy milk with fried crullers... I went for it and ordered some starch. We ate a fried cruller wrapped in shao bing, dipped in hot soy milk, alongside a piece of fluffy sesame seed and scallion bread. Greasy but worth it. It reminded me of the ones I used to get in southern California. I also spotted a photo of a "beef patty" sandwich and ordered one - thin pieces of beef stuffed into a shao bing, with some sweet "BBQ" on top. Tasty. And then we stuffed ourselves with red bean ice cream, green tea ice cream, and mango shaved ice topped with condensed milk and mango ice cream. Yum. (There are currently two empty stalls in this food court, hopefully the home of Temple Snacks in a few weeks?)

5. Finally, it looked like the wait at Nan Xiang had died down a little. It was 4pm. One order of soup dumplings was had. They come six to a steamer, steaming hot, filled with broth (definitely larger than some of the places in Manhattan that serve them 8 to a bamboo steamer). They look as if they are about to burst when you pick them up because you can watch it sag with the weight of the meat and broth. I'm not a soup dumping expert but I would say that the broth was very good, not oily, but on the salty side. I really enjoyed the filling - porky and intense. But I can see how some people think the skins are just a tad bit too thick. In comparison to other places, it seems as if the meat and broth have a lot of room to move around inside the dumpling. But it sure was tasty.

6. The Sun May bakery just off of Main Street turns out to be awesome. They make pineapple cake fresh, in house (kind of like a Chinese fig newton). The selection had a lot of different buns and cakes you don't see anywhere else: creamy peanut buns, dry pork and egg white cake, flaky melon cakes, fried glutinous rice balls with savory pork filling (like those fried sesame buns you get at dim sum without the sesame part), whole wheat pork buns, a walnut and date tiny tea cake, maybe 40-50 different cakes and buns! I'm surprised more people haven't written about this place. I was with 5 other people, and none of us had seen some of their selections before. I was stuffed, took some things to go. Mmmmm, egg tart. One of the better specimens in the city with a very flaky crust (they shatter a little when you bit in) and creamy custard. Thumbs up, and I can't wait to go back and try some of the other items they have.

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  1. These all sound great. We'll be in NYC and environs for a month early summer. Are these places all on the main drag, close to? Are the signs in English? BTW, speaking of English, do most vendors in the "mall" speak English? We walked down there once - after eating too much elsewhere - and it was pretty overwhelming. But I've save another post with pictures and want to study up before we go again. Thanks.

    4 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      All these spots are within a 5-10 minute walk of each other. We spent most of the afternoon just walking around in the same area.

      If you look through the New York Times article on Flushing eats from this past summer, there is a great, interactive map. And most of the vendors listed in there are proud of being in the paper, and proudly display a copy of it on their walls or storefronts. For those, they are pretty used to non-Chinese speakers stopping in by now.

      Best North has one small English, 8.5 x 11 menu taped to the counter. White Bear has a few English and Chinese menus that are more obviously placed. Xian Famous Foods has big photos with English labels all over the wall and the staff speak some English. The owner is pretty fluent. They have a web site too at xianfoods.com. The Flushing Mall is fairly English friendly but the Taiwanese stall we went to didn't have any menus in English. For stuff I wasn't sure about, I talked to the cashier girl, and she was able to help. There may be some pointing and gesturing here. For Nan Xiang soup dumplings, the menu is in both English and Chinese. Sun Mary was super helpful, we asked for recommenations, and they gladly offered suggestions (in English) and answered questions (is this sweet or savory, what is inside this bun) because the signage isn't that great.

      In the Golden Mall specifically, Chengdu Heaven now has color photos with English captions. The Lan Zhou handmade noodle place has sign English signs outside the mall with arrows, and a few giant menus. The Xian Famous Foods stall has big color photos and English captions. But the Xian fellow is by far the most engaging and friendly and welcoming to non-Chinese speakers, if you even look confused, he tries to help you. I think the Shangdong dumpling place on the upper level has English on the menu as well. The rest of the spots don't really have English menus but I wouldn't know about the staff as have been spending my money at Chengdu Heaven and Xian Famous Foods.

      1. re: kathryn

        Thanks for the great rundown. Did you manage to see what was going on with the Roosevelt Food Court?

        1. re: scoopG

          They had their metal gate half-way down but you could see some work permits taped to the front door. My friend who got there before me said that before they put the metal gate down, you could see some DOH notices on the front door (pink, she said). They estimated re-opening in about a week.

      2. re: c oliver

        Yes, you should be able to get by with English. The vendors are so friendly and eager to please. Here's the NYT link:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/din...

      3. That's funny. I was also at the Mall today, with my kid, and noticed a small group that I had pegged as bloggers, as at least three of them were wielding cameras and taking food shots. Now I'm guessing that was you.

        We also hit up White Bear, got an order of boiled pork and celery dumplings. Brought them to the Mall to eat them. This was my first time trying White Bear, and, to be honest, I wasn't wowed. Not that there was anything wrong with them, but, for me, they're not up to Best North quality, and they had me missing Yippin's thistle and dill dumplings in a big way.

        Later on, when we were walking around upstairs, I finally stumbled on the Chinese-Korean dumpling stall that posters have raved about. Ever try that one? I'd been looking for it, but it might have been closed during my past few mall visits, as it's kind of hard to miss.

        P.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Polecat

          Hah, was this around 3 or 3:30pm? That was probably us, we sat at the far end of the court, the section nearby the bathrooms.

          I haven't had the other offerings from White Bear but maybe their won tons are better than the boiled dumplings? Never got to try Yipin's unfortunately.

          My friend had tried the kimchee dumplings before, so we skipped them this time, perhaps I'll get to try it next time but there is so much to eat I often fill up before we remember there's more upstairs.

          1. re: kathryn

            I'd say closer to 3, yeah.

            I'll definitely give the hot oil wontons a shot at White Bear. Sun May Bakery sounds interesting - for all I know I've been there. You mentioned it's off of Main. What street exactly?
            P.

            1. re: Polecat

              The wontons in red oil at White Bear do seem a bit different from the ones I've had at Grand Sichuan, Szechuan Gourmet, Spicy & Tasty, etc. in that they are a lot less spicy and there is less emphasis on the hot oil. Not sure why!

              Here's the address for the bakery:
              Sun Mary Bakery
              133-57 41st Road

              Let us know what you think!

              1. re: kathryn

                Sun Mary's on the radar, thanks to ZenFoodist, but it's always great to have fresh info. Appreciate these reports!

                http://www.chow.com/outer_boroughs_di...
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/426786

                -----
                Sun Mary Bakery
                133-57 41st Rd, Queens, NY 11355

        2. I'm really happy to get all this info. We went to Jade Asian once for dim sum (half priced during the week) and thought it was terrific. We also went to the Joe's for XLB. Can't wait to REALLY dig into Flushing. We live in NoCal and love getting to NYC every chance we get.

          1. i love white bear....my favorite dumplings in NY (i usually pick up a bag of the frozen ones to bring back to manhattan)

            how was the actual soy bean milk at House of Yun Ho?

            ill have to try sun may, ive been looking for a go-to bakery in flushing (i dont have one)...what is the cross streets? (main and what?)

            13 Replies
            1. re: Lau

              You think White Bear is better than Best North and the two places in the Golden Mall (Shangdong and Nan Bei are their names I think)? What do you like to get there, the regular pork and vegetable?

              I'm not a huge soy milk fan but it seemed alright to me. We didn't get extra sugar on it though, as my friend likes hers on the plainer side.

              Sun Mary ("Mary" not "May," which is weird, right?). If you walk south on Main Street from the 7 stop, it's on 41st road (not 41st Ave, 41st Rd). Around the corner from the giant red/yellow supermarket (Hong Ling). Just make a right off of Main Street.

              1. re: kathryn

                oh i though you got the savory type of soy bean milk called xian dou jiang (they put vinegar, chili oil, pickled vegetables in it)...its very good with shao bing you tiao and fan tuan if you've never had it (serve it alot in taiwan, shanghai and i believe some northerners eat it as well)...i usually get mine from King 5, but supposedly Nan Xiang's very good. I was curious about House of Yun Ho as any place called yun ho, yung ho etc is always a soy bean milk specialist...i think its the name of a famous restaurant in taiwan (there are a bunch of restaurants in LA with the same name)

                I haven't tried best north (where is it again? too many dumpling places)...i do think it is better than the golden mall places. Very good delicate skin, great filling...i think its just an excellent dumpling. I get the hot oil ones if im there and i get the pork and cabbage ones to go)

                will have to try sun mary

                1. re: Lau

                  Best North is on the same block, same side of Roosevelt as the new (shuttered) Food Court, further down, in the direction of Prince Street. It's pretty much around the corner from White Bear, and easy to miss as it is essentially a stall in a bigger, compartmentalized store that has sections for DVDs, herbs, etc.

                  I'm with Kathryn on the pork and fennel; they're unique and excellent. The straight cabbage dumplings are good, too.
                  P.

                  1. re: Polecat

                    Also none of the outside signage says "Best North" at all!

                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/roboppy/...
                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/roboppy/...

                    1. re: kathryn

                      yeah its actually called dong bei jiao zi want (east north dumpling king) according to the sign....thats not that bad though....i always liked when the restaurant name is way off like like "Perfect Team Corporation" and the chinese guang dong restauant haha

                      1. re: Lau

                        Northeast - not east north! Are these the guys that have the pork and fennel dumplings?

                        1. re: scoopG

                          Yes, boiled pork and fennel and quite tasty.

                          1. re: scoopG

                            scoopG - haha yeah, but read the sign it says east north even though that is northeast in english (it was a literal translation)

                            kathryn - im interested in these fennel dumplings, ill have to try them soon

                      2. re: Polecat

                        Were they really pork and fennel? When I ordered those in January, what I got was delicious, but was clearly pork and dill. Ditto on the bag of frozen ones I took home.

                        1. re: gpcohen

                          #6 on the menu here, is it mistranslated?
                          http://www.flickr.com/photos/roboppy/...

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Nope. You have it right: 茴香 – Hui Xiang means Fennel or aniseed.

                      3. re: Lau

                        They were also selling a bunch of hot soy milk with cut up chunks of you tiao and some garnishes that looked pretty good too.

                        Funny that Yun Ho's name makes it sound like it is a soy milk specialist. I can't read Chinese and was going by what I could see. All the photos of food they had taped to the counter were of you tiao, shao bing, various buns and breads.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          yeah thats the stuff...its very good if done right although alot depends on whether its good soy bean milk or not...funny enough its pretty easy to screw up soy bean milk and alot of restaurants do

                          i think its either a restaurant or an area in taipei that is famous for it...so everyone starts calling their restaurant that...sorta like xiao fei yang (little fat sheep) for hot pot and all the rip off restaurants

                  2. Kathryn,
                    Yall folks know how to throw an eating/outing/fooding. Even though I'm in Flushing on an almost daily basis never have I eaten so much there in one day. Loved the dumplings at Best North and was glad to get over my fear of White Bear. Kinda funny that the dude who loves the ma la yang lian (lamb face) at Xi'an Famous Foods would be put off by the the Bear's relatively innocuous offerings. Too bad they were out of the sea cucumber dumplings and ice cream!

                    I'm really glad the liang pi at Xi'an Famous Foods was good. Lately he hasn't been using enough chili oil. As for the mysterious part in that blisteringly hot lamb face salad I still say it was eye. http://www.the-feedbag.com/eat-this-n...

                    Now if you'll excuse me I'm gonna go eat that chocolate dome thingie I bought at Sun Mary.

                    Keep on smokin',
                    Joey Deckle

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Joey Deckle

                      Next time, next time...